One day I might have a child. That child might one day play sports. One of those sports my hypothetical child might play is lacrosse. One night while my child is thirteen or under I might have his or her whole team over for a pizza party. If, and only if, those conditions are met, then Crooked Arrows would be a great choice of a movie. In all other instances, Crooked Arrows is a less entertaining version of The Mighty Ducks or any other sports movie.
Joe Logan (Brandon Routh) is a half-Native American former lacrosse star who abandoned the game for mysterious reasons (which you know will be a major plot point), and is currently a mascot and executive at the local tribal gaming house. His boss, Mr. Geyer (Tom Kemp), wants Joe to convince the tribal council — which includes Joe’s father Ben (Gil Birmingham) — to build a much bigger casino/entertainment hub. Ben, who is upset that Joe has abandoned his heritage, will allow the plan to move forward only if Logan “finds his spirit” by coaching the tribe’s high school lacrosse team who couldn’t win a game if the opposing team slept through it. Complicating matters is Joe’s lacrosse-crazed teenage sister Nadie (Chelsea Ricketts) as assistant coach and his ex-girlfriend, Julie (Crystal Allen), who is both a teacher at the school and the mother of the worst player on Joe’s team. Through his experience with the team, Joe relearns the importance of his heritage and the kids learn… well, you’ve seen these movies before, you know exactly what they learn.
It’s fair to say that almost every major sport has at least one iconic movie. Hockey has Slap Shot, boxing has Rocky, football has Rudy and a few others, basketball has Hoosiers, baseball has more than I can count, even pro wrestling has The Wrestler. I guess it’s about time for lacrosse to get the silver screen treatment, but the sport deserves more respect than plot points swiped from other sports movies. Knuckleball! shows how compelling true-life sports documentaries can be, and the other sports movies I mentioned above just some of the dozens of great sports movies in movie history. There isn’t an original, inspirational lacrosse story out there?
I don’t want to beat up too much on a movie for kids that isn’t meant to be critically analyzed, but it’s hard for a movie this predictable to grab you. In fact, the only unpredictable moments are the ones which don’t make sense, like when a huge teenager just wanders out of the forest and becomes the best player on the team (a sequence I was convinced was some kind of metaphoric dream sequence until it was apparent that it wasn’t). I know that most Native American tribes are sovereign nations, but is there no equivalent to child services on the reservation? Only an ever-present sportscaster — who even points out himself how ludicrous it is for him to be covering upstate New York prep school lacrosse games — is more annoying.
Thankfully Routh gets most of the screentime, because a majority of the younger actors aren’t very good (I’m assuming for many of them this is their first movie). Then again, the production side isn’t much to speak of, either — director Steve Rash hasn’t directed a theatrically released film in over a decade (he’s done direct-to-video spinoffs of American Pie, Bring It On, and Road Trip). Of the two writers, one is a total newcomer (Todd Baird) and the other, Brad Riddell, wrote the American Pie and Road Trip spinoffs that Rash directed (he also wrote Slap Shot 3, which I didn’t even know existed). I wasn’t going to expect much from those credits. However, the production company, Sports Studio, produced Miracle when it was known as Sportsrobe and performed “Sports Coordination” (whatever that is) for Moneyball. One would hope that those much better movies would mean Sports Studio knew what it was doing, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Again, Crooked Arrows obviously wasn’t meant for a mature audience and there’s nothing wrong with that. Still, it follows a plot that’s been done to death in much better movies and just adding the lacrosse and Native American heritage elements doesn’t change that.
Rating: For preteen lacrosse fans only (4/10)